6 Critical Things You Need To Know About Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

1. What Are Omega- 3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential for our bodies to perform several important functions. Unlike most other types of fats, our bodies can’t produce omega- 3 fatty acids on its own as they are essential fats that must be provided to our bodies through the food we consume. There are three main omega-3 fatty acids and they are Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which are mostly found in fish and Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is commonly found in vegetable oil, leafy vegetables, seeds and nuts.

2. Why Do We Need Them?

According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public Health, omega-3 fatty acids are an “integral part of cell membranes throughout the body and affect the function of the cell receptors in these membranes. They provide the starting point for making hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation. They also bind to receptors in cells that regulate genetic function.”

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3. What Are Its Benefits?

The Functions Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids In our bodies

Three of the most popular benefits of omega-3 have been with regard to its impact on cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis and neuro development in the fetal stage. Apart from these benefits, there have been studies in several others.

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Cardiovascular Disease

According to the National Center For Complementary And Integrative Health, “Evidence suggests that seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids should be included in a heart-healthy diet. However, omega-3s in supplement form have not been shown to protect against heart disease.” It has been found that people who include seafood in their diet at least once a week are less likely to suffer from heart disease than those who don’t.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation in the joints that may cause extreme pain. People who have consumed omega-3 supplements have claimed that they have experienced relief. According to a report by the NCCIH, “many of the participants reported that when they were taking fish oil they had briefer morning stiffness, less joint swelling and pain, and less need for anti-inflammatory drugs to control their symptoms.”

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Pregnancy

Omega-3 has been found to be crucial during fetal neuro-development and is also important during the gestation period. According to a review published in Obstetrics And Gynecology, “Most pregnant women likely do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids because the major dietary source, seafood, is restricted to 2 servings a week. For pregnant women to obtain adequate omega-3 fatty acids, a variety of sources should be consumed: vegetable oils, 2 low-mercury fish servings a week, and supplements (fish oil or algae-based docosahexaenoic acid)”

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Other Benefits

Several other benefits of omega-3 fats have been studies including its role in prevention of allergies, asthma, stroke, controlling eczema, lupus, menstrual cramps, obesity among numerous others. Although, it must be noted that there isn’t enough evidence to support these benefits.

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4. How Much Is An Adequate Amount For Daily Intake?

 

According to the National Institute Of Health, an average adult (19-50) male requires about 1.6 g and an average adult female requires about 1.1 g of omega-3 fatty acids as ALA. This is the amount that has to be consumed in order to maintain adequacy and the amount differs for pregnant women and those who are in their lactation period.

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5. Omega-3 Rich Foods

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in both animal and plant foods. Some of the foods that contain a good source of omega-3 fatty acids include chia seeds, flax seeds, most fish varieties, soybean, walnuts, mayonnaise, edamame, kidney beans, baked beans, whole wheat bread, eggs and milk.

6. Omega-3 Supplements

Omega-3 supplements or fish oil supplements are becoming popular as of late. Although consuming fish has been known to have a variety of benefits there isn’t enough evidence to support the benefits of omega-3 supplements. It is essential to ensure that you don’t use these supplements as a complete alternative to conventional treatment of any medical condition.